La Kena, notorious Mexican cartel leader, captured; group accused of killing 2 US tourists

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La Kena, a notorious Mexican drug cartel leader whose faction is believed to have killed two U.S. tourists last year, has been captured. 

José Alberto García Vilano, who heads up the powerful “Los Ciclones,” or “Cyclones” cell, was arrested in a shopping plaza on the outskirts of the city of Monterrey on Friday after information about his whereabouts was leaked to officials, local media and officials say. 

The Cyclones, one of the most powerful and violent factions of the now-divided Gulf cartel, have been accused of kidnapping four U.S. citizens in March and killing two of them.

A mugshot of a Mexican cartel leader

José Alberto García Vilano. (Fox)

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Video posted on social media allegedly shows Vilano and his associates being dragged out of the mall by navy personnel and then bungled into unmarked vehicles parked outside the mall in the municipality of San Pedro Garza García, Nuevo León, one of Mexico’s wealthiest areas. 

Mexico’s navy said in a statement that marines had detained the alleged leader of a criminal group “in one of the criminal organizations with the most presence in the state of Tamaulipas,” although it did not provide a name. 

The statement noted he was one of the main targets of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Miguel Treviño, the mayor of San Pedro Garza García, shared on X a screenshot of a newspaper article that names La Kena.

“Thanks to good intelligence, coordination and police monitoring, today an alleged criminal leader was arrested without a single shot,” Treviño wrote. 

American Cartel Texas

Police officers keep watch at the scene where authorities found the bodies of two of four Americans kidnapped by gunmen, in Matamoros, Mexico, on March 7, 2023. (REUTERS/Daniel Becerril)

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In 2022, Tamaulipas state prosecutors offered a $150,000 reward for Vilano’s arrest while identifying him by a second nickname, “Cyclone 19.”

In March, the group allegedly kidnapped four Americans who had crossed into Matamoros from Texas so that one of them could have cosmetic surgery.

They were fired on in downtown Matamoros and then loaded into a pickup truck, having unknowingly got tangled in the crosshairs of a shootout between the Cyclones and another cartel.

Mexico cartel kidnappings

Four U.S. citizens were fired on in downtown Matamoros, Mexico, and then loaded into a truck. (AP Photo, File)

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Americans Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard died in the attack; Eric Williams and Latavia McGee survived. Most of them had grown up together in the small town of Lake City, South Carolina.

A Mexican woman, Areli Pablo Servando, 33, was also killed, apparently by a stray bullet.

Several people have been arrested in connection to the kidnappings and killings. The Gulf drug cartel turned over five men to police soon after the abduction, and prosecutors arrested two more individuals days later. 

Fox News’ Bradford Betz and Landon Mion as well as The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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